Why, oh why KAP? and the Royston PSoc

Last night  I was invited to give a talk on my KAP work to the Royston Photographic Society: I was determined to make a good case for KAP so I turned up early, found an open space and got a camera aloft…and got into immediate trouble with the wind speed..

I have been here before but this is was the first time I had the Explorer pull like a horse rather than feather off to one side of the wind window. Too late to bemoan the wrong choice of kite, my PFK was on the back seat of the car…if only I’d checked the met before setting out!

As the line began to howl keeping a safe grip was getting beyond me..I hitched the razor tight line to my harness (thank the lord I’d put it on before getting to this point) and walked it to the nearest fixed point ( a hawthorn in the hedgerow…not ideal but it had a clean 10cm bole) to tie off and begin the walk down.  In 10 minutes the camera had shot about 400 frames of which almost all were rubbish, most ruined by motion blur and the rest a bad mix of extreme tilt and autofocus fails.

Because of the cold I’d decided not to bother with an RC session and AutoKAP seemed the easiest option: I keep the A2300 in my pocket for just this sort of thing. Just as well as the line began to bite I  knew any camera would be in for a really rough ride up there!

Heave awayThe wind record shows the average to have been 22mph with gusts of 30: way too much for the explorer and a bit of a handful for the PFK too. I’d imagined the wind would drop in the evening as it often does but it just kept pushing harder.

After some serious help from the KAP forum I decided the best answer to the ‘why use a kite?’ question was: it is the cheapest way of raising a camera 60m! Of course it is the most unreliable too- as my short adventure in to Bft 5 demonstrated all too clearly!


About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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6 Responses to Why, oh why KAP? and the Royston PSoc

  1. Tom Benedict says:

    Aaaah, but would anyone really want to fly a multirotor in Bft 5? Or use a pole or mast? (Dare I mention a balloon?) Unreliable as it may be, my guess is KAP was still the best tool for the job, given the conditions you had.

    And the light on that third photo is quite fine. Bumpy ride or not, you came away with some beautiful photos.


    • I could have done better, just looking through the wasters showed me that! I ended up in a tug o’ war with the kite instead of working the camera. Funny thing though, I had a brief chat with a Cessna pilot and he can never get low or slow enough to take the pics he wants…he has developed an engine cut/ shallow dive procedure to get low and slow! Seems like aerial photography is a challenge how ever you do it!


      • Tom Benedict says:

        That’s the truth! I watched a plane try to do low altitude aerial photography of a house a few years ago. After watching their technique for a few passes, what came to mind was “barnstorming”. I’d have been surprised if they came away with as many keepers as you did.

        I’d love to see that pilot’s engine cut / shallow dive technique. It seems more reasonable than what the people I saw were doing.

  2. Ramon says:

    Nice story, Bill. Another lesson learned and another experience richer.

    Yesterday evening I decided to take the PFK out for a test flight. I found it flying far too unstable in a wind I considered just fine for it last Easter Monday. It was constantly flying to the left and almost diving. Yesterday the wind was similar to some days earlier and the kite showed the same behaviour. I would have sworn I flew it in heavier winds with no issues at all. Maybe the wind was ‘dirtier’ this week. I don’t know. But suddenly I realized this kite has 3 towing points. With a reason. I tried the middle first, still the same behaviour but better. The highest towing point appeared to be the best option. Kite was doing fine now. So no further trouble here.

    How was the talk going??


    • Ramon,

      The PFK is a bit of an oddity: I have found it can stabilise with a long lead above the camera to act as a kind of pendulum on the kite. I have a theory that’s how it’s designed to work- dragging wet fish through the waters of the Southern Ocean. It really likes to weave around and you just have to let it do its thing. The 3 bridle points are interesting, get it wrong and you can really wreck the lift. Right now the wind is downright weird- I think the air temperature is affecting kite lift – we are just not used to a cold dry airflow like this one. This is my best explanation for the Explorer not doing its ‘heel and feather’ thing: it just kept pulling harder straight down wind!

      The talk went well, I had a very keen audience, but I kept thinking…’I have missed out a really good shot of this or that!’ I think it was a good mix of the technical and photographic but I left thinking I could have said so much more…

      I worry a great deal about image resolution and I tried to explain the problem of flying height over focal length and then realised I needed a diagram….which I hadn’t got. So I reckon there’s a talk to be had on low level photogrammetry alone!

      I was very glad to have considered the obvious question on the KAP forum as the most insistent questions came from a couple of drone enthusiasts who spotted the GS1 as an asset to their project.

      There was a nice moment when I got the hall to declare for Nikon or Canon – a neat 50-50 split and a real icebreaker!


  3. This is when the practicalities get in the way. Reconnoiter the site before hand. Where will you launch the kite? What wind directions are favourable? Are there cables or power lines ANYWHERE nearby? What is the best kite to use for high angle or long reach?

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